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Nov. 16th, 2008

More moral ambiguity, more darkness, emphasised by the - for this show, where Merlin in the stocks is played for comic value - vicious and brutal sword fights. And here I thought there'd never be an episode where I'd actually like Uther. Not that he isn't still a very problematic character, and how many of his knights would he have watched get slaughtered to keep the secret from Arthur? (Then again, probably not too may, judging from his reaction after the second one gets killed.)

Very, very well acted. Anthony (and btw, when did he lose the 'Stewart'? it still feels a bit odd typing the name like that...) Head was completely, utterly brilliant, all the complex emotions, the insecurity creeping in at the first, reflexive, 'I'm not to blame,' clutching at straws as everything starts to fall apart, and then proving himself the king he is and finally facing his responsibility.

Still, though. 'You've always been a good friend. Despite my temper.'Temper? A relentless crusade against every bit of magic for almost two decades, fuelled by remorse and self-hatred and the inability to face his own share of guilt, is a bit more than temper.

Does Uther even know about Gaius' magic? (He is at least something of a wizard, isn't he, even if apparently he'd always been critical of using magic too much and with a disregard to the cost? Sadly I've already deleted most of the earlier episodes since I didn't expect to actually get sucked into the show like that...) Or what that 'friendship' and loyalty cost him? Because I tend to think that this long and uncompromising loyalty to someone like Uther, standing by watching and doing nothing as he had countless innocent people executed, maybe also the constant unspoken threat of Uther knowing about his involvement with magic combined with the fact that he was the only other person to know about the events surrounding Arthur's birth, destroyed part of Gaius's character and soul, turning him into the overcautious man who just lets things happen around him, afraid to take the initiative. 'I'm the king. You will not tell me what I can and cannot do.' Can you really call that friendship? Maybe Uther was once capable of real friendship, but it's been a long time. And what does this say about Merlin and Arthur? If Arthur did go Uther's way, would Merlin still follow him, like Gaius did follow Uther?

How tragic is it that only Nimueh and the prospect of Arthur's imminent death made Uther fully realise that he actually loved his son and that it was as his expectations and Arthur's conviction he's a disappointment to his father and constant wish to prove himself otherwise, that drove Arthur to issue the challenge and made it so impossible for him to back out of it, even in the face of something not-quite-natural going on, as much, if not more, than honour and duty?

Also, this: Despite the dragon's complaints about betrayal and prophecies of Evil To Come, Uther actually having Excalibur for that one fight, and with it a realistic chance to win, did change things, change him, change Arthur and their relationship. If Uther had died, Arthur would have blamed himself for the rest of his life. Blamed Gaius, Merlin, if he ever found out that sword had existed, probably also his father, but mostly himself, because in hindsight he'd have seen it as a weakness that he took the drought, that he didn't manage to escape from his chamber, that, that, that. Another failure. He'd probably never have been able to see what Uther did as a proof of love, rather than a proof of Uther's doubt in him and his own weakness; at best a strategic decision for the kingdom. It'd have haunted and tormented him as much as Igraine's death and his own part in it haunted Uther. With things turning out the way they did, he was given a chance to make his peace with his father and accept that Uther loves him, just as Uther was finally able to accept (and say, twenty years too late, but better late than never) he loved his son, even if it cost him his wife.

Which begs the question, what about last episode and the consequences of Merlin saving the boy Mordred after all, which the dragon also advised against? Mordred might still kill Arthur and bring down Camelot, but how much grimmer might the future have been if Merlin not showing up had destroyed Arthur's trust in him and ruined their friendship? What kind of impact would that have had on Arthur's character? And what is the dragon's agenda?

'I knew you're proud of him, really.' Even without slash googles that's pretty much - and a bit wistfully -, 'I knew you really love him,' which is also in the air in the scene where Merlin arms Uther for the fight - 'Well, you could say there's a bond betwen us' - 'I'm glad. Look after him.', but with all the slashy subtext they've pushed into the show so far it's impossible to say this aloud and make it sound like anything else...

Oh, and next episode. Intriguing. Drama! Coming Out! Revelation! Now personally I thought Arthur kind of knew about Merlin's magic since episode... 3? 4? The one with the creature from the black lagoon and Gwen to be burned at the stake, and the one with the magic flower and the glowy globe, and but we'll see. If Nimueh is/will be the Lady of the Lake, will she eventually give the sword back to Arthur, when he's proven himself less homicidal about magic than his father? And did this episode give Uther that moment of self-awareness that won't make him immediately have Merlin beheaded when he finds out?

What I'm less fond of is how small Gwen's part has become. If you're going to do the colourblind casting thing at all, then it should be done a bit better. Unless there's a big Gwen episode yet to come...



Nov. 17th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
It's almost like they don't know what to do with her character any more, although they have to have some sort of plan to fit her into the Arthurian mythology, even if she's only Morgana's maid now? But the storyline with her as a potential love interest for Merlin seems to be mostly dead and nothing else has replaced it so far. I thought colourblind casting with the black actress playing the maid was a bit iffy from the start, but she had an important part, and she was, well, Guinevere, which seemed to imply she, like Merlin, wouldn't be the maid forever, but after this weekend's episode I'm kind of waiting for the next round of Racist! vs. Don't harsh our squee!...


solitary summer

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